« Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 1 opinion(s) today (and 5 NFP memorandum decision(s)) | Main | Ind. Gov't. - "Bill limits women's reasons for abortion" »

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "Dunes pavilion alcohol passes House, headed to Pence"

Dan Carden of the NWI Times reports today in a story that begins:

It's now up to Republican Gov. Mike Pence to decide whether alcohol someday will be available for purchase at a renovated Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion.

The Republican-controlled House voted 63-30 Monday to advance House Enrolled Act 1386 to the governor for his signature or veto. It previously passed the Republican-controlled Senate, 33-17.

The measure allows the Department of Natural Resources to obtain "state park" alcohol permits, for any or all of its parks, without having to follow most of the procedures typically required to get state permission to sell beer, wine or liquor — including local review.

Developer Pavilion Partners last year twice was denied an alcohol sales permit by the Porter County Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

During debate on the proposal, House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, held up nearly 10,000 petition signatures from Lake, Porter and LaPorte county residents opposing the plan.

He said regular Dunes visitors don't want alcohol on the beach, don't think the state should override local decisions and believe Chuck Williams, the former Porter County Republican chairman and lead investor in Pavilion Partners, is getting a special deal.

"They don't understand why such a precious natural resource is being turned into something that they don't want," Pelath said. "Just so somebody can make some money."

State Rep. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said allowing alcohol at the pavilion is likely to destroy the park, just as an earlier generation drained and ruined the Kankakee Marshes.

The final paragraph:
The governor has not stated his position on the legislation. However, he's unlikely to veto the proposal, because it addresses numerous alcohol and tobacco issues across Indiana, including allowing for the Sunday sale of a commemorative beer bottle on May 29 at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race.
The Indianapolis Star today has an AP story by Brian Slodysko that reports:
The Indiana House gave final approval Monday to a measure designed to revive a stalled privatization deal that would bring restaurants, a rooftop bar and a banquet center to Indiana Dunes State Park.

The House agreed to changes made in the Senate, voting 63-30 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s desk.

The measure would allow Pavilion Partners, a group formed by politically connected Valparaiso developer Chuck Williams, to sell alcohol at the planned beachfront development — something the group says is necessary for the project to be viable. It circumvents a Porter County alcohol board and the state’s Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, which both ruled to deny an alcohol permit amid opposition from environmentalists who said the decades-long lease for the development amounts to a sell-off of public land that should be free of commercials interests.

Democrats railed against the measure, noting it was folded into a massive alcohol and tobacco bill that contained other provisions many people support. * * *

Williams is a state Republican Party official who has donated handsomely to GOP causes. But he has disputed allegations that his connections played a role in the project’s advancement. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has said it followed state and federal laws and did not give Williams preferential treatment in approving the project, which gives him control of the facilities for decades to come in exchange for $18,000 in yearly rent and 2 percent of sales.

“There is no correlation between contributions I made to the local GOP 10 years ago and any legislation pending before the Legislature,” Williams said last week.

Williams, who hired a lobbying firm to push the bill, has previously said alcohol sales would be necessary to make it profitable for him to rehabilitate a dilapidated pavilion in the park nestled among the towering dunes that line Lake Michigan. His plan would include two beachfront restaurants, the rooftop bar, and a glass-walled banquet hall offering “the best view in Indiana.”

The effort by Williams to renovate the pavilion dates back to the administration of Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Emails show Williams pitched the idea and worked with the DNR on a proposal long before it went out to public bid and years before a formal public hearing was held on the project. The only competing offer came from a nonprofit group of local conservationists, lawyers and finance professionals.

Williams has maintained he had “a vision and a passion” to rehabilitate a building that the state has neglected since he was a child. He says he poured money into a project that the state had refused to fund.

For ILB entries on the Dunes pavilion issue dating back to 2006, see this list.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 8, 2016 11:09 AM
Posted to Indiana Government